Proposed Guests-Only Restaurant At Beachside Under The Microscope
Jason Graziadei •
When Blue Flag Partners unveiled its plan last week to revamp The Beachside hotel - which it acquired on year ago for $38 million - the proposal to create a new 70-seat restaurant caught the most attention.
And that was because the new restaurant would be restricted to guests-only, or what some considered to be a private dining establishment. Social media posts flared up with criticism of the proposal, especially in light of the fact that Blue Flag’s most recent regulatory review of another property in its portfolio - The Woodbox on Fair Street - ended with the Planning Board approving a guests-only restaurant there.
While the plans for The Beachside got largely positive reviews from the Planning Board during Monday’s hearing, the topic of the restaurant dominated the discussion.
“This is as close to a gated community as you can get,” Planning Board member Barry Rector said. “The trend here of moving toward private restaurants is starting to concern me a bit. I like to keep an open mind on these things, but at first blush, I want to get that thought across to you, and that is I feel like in the community, we’re losing something again.”
Blue Flag Partners co-founder Brad Guidi and the real estate firm’s attorney Sarah Alger immediately objected to Rector’s characterization. They emphasized that in both cases - The Woodbox and The Beachside - the guests-only restaurant concept was proposed only to allay the concerns of neighbors regarding a public restaurant in their neighborhood.
“What we did hear from numerous neighbors is they didn't want a restaurant open to the public because there was a fear that it would become something like Sandbar,” Guidi said. “So in an effort to respond to the neighborhood, we were trying to actually do the right thing. Meeting with the neighbors and coming in and being responsive to what the neighborhood wants, I thought that was the point of what we’re doing.”
Alger said the restaurant should not be considered private, as any member of the public would be allowed to eat there so long as they were a paying guest of the hotel.
“There’s a lot of push and pull,” Alger said. “When you have a hotel restaurant only open to hotel guests, that’s something that maybe the general public isn’t all that thrilled with, but it’s something the neighborhood is very sensitive to. This isn’t going to be that destination place where you’re going to want to jump in the car and drive to and eat. It’s meant to be someplace you’re staying with your kids, relaxing by the pool while they go to the game room and have a safe place to go.”
The other members of the Planning Board offered no strong objections to the guests-only restaurant, with some indicating that the issue could be revisited in the years ahead when a restaurant open to the public might be more palatable.
“I wish the restaurant wasn’t just for the hotel guests,” Planning Board member David Iverson said. “I think that hopefully, maybe, that will change in time. But other than that I want to say thank you. I think it’s what the island needs and it couldn’t be in better hands at this point.”
Planning Board member Joe Topham, who worked for a summer at The Beachside as a teenager, said it was very clear to him and other employees that a restaurant facility at the hotel was lacking.
“Maybe over time if everything starts to work, maybe we can look at seeing about the public coming in,” Topham said. “But right now if you have a family there, there would be nothing better than enjoying the pool and having your meal there and relaxing instead of having to schlepp to town and trying to get back before the kids are crashing and need to get put to bed.”
At the Greydon House on Broad Street, Planning Board Nat Lowell reminded his colleagues, the restaurant started out restricted to guests-only, but within a few years that condition was lifted and Via Mare opened to the public.
“This is one of those weird hotels you drive by on the way to a Marriott and say ‘I aint staying there’,” Lowell said. “The Greydon House started as a guests-only restaurant. It ended up being open to the public and it blends in and no one even remembers that discussion. Everyone’s forgotten. But it did happen. I’ve kinda had it with the complaining."
John Trudel, the chair of the Planning Board, argued emphatically that Blue Flag should be allowed to move forward with the guests-only restaurant concept, and emphasized his own experience at hotels on the mainland that similarly restricted their food service to guests.
“We’re trying to create a public restaurant where there really wasn’t a public restaurant before? In 30 years I never remember calling up to make dinner reservations at The Beachside,” Trudel said. “It's not a public restaurant, and you should be able to provide a service to your patrons. I’m really starting to get frustrated...We don’t want to close the door on anything and say it should only be private. We might see in two or three years, we’re making it potentially available for a public restaurant if they see the need or the people want something like that. But right now they’re saying it would be for the patrons only. We’ll leave the door open to potentially opening it up to the public.”
Guidi and Alger emphasized repeatedly that The Beachside is being redeveloped as a family friendly hotel, with its pool, restaurant, and other amenities shut down by 10 p.m.
“We’re not trying to make this some crazy party hotel with pool bars,” Guidi said. “This is a pool bar to service families and you can sit around and eat lunch and dinner...We’ve envisioned this property as a place where you could go as a family and let your kids kind of experience their first taste of independence which I think is probably a fond memory for most of us during the summer, and in doing so we wanted a place where the parents could also eat dinner and not have to go out and have to deal with reservations on Nantucket.”
Neighbors of the hotel raised a series of other issues - including noise, traffic, and potential impacts on surrounding residential homes - but the objections did not appear to rise to the level of pushback Blue Flag Partners received during the regulatory review of its plans for The Woodbox.
The hearing on The Beachside was continued to the Planning Board’s next meeting in March.